Iceland PM: EU entry talks may take only 1-2 years

BRUSSELS Fri Feb 5, 2010 2:42am IST

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (R) welcomes Iceland's Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir before their meeting at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, February 4, 2010.   REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (R) welcomes Iceland's Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir before their meeting at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, February 4, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

Related Topics

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, adjusts her flower garlands as she campaigns for her mother during an election meeting at Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar

Election 2014

More than 814 million people — a number larger than the population of Europe — are eligible to vote in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.  Full Coverage 

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Iceland already is closely aligned with the European Union and could complete talks on becoming a full member 12 to 24 months after discussions start, Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir said on Thursday.

She set aside concerns about collapsed Icelandic savings bank Icesave and a dispute with Britain and the Netherlands about lost deposits, saying it made no sense to link the disagreement to EU membership discussions.

"It is quite clear in our minds that the EU application and the Icesave issue are unrelated," she told Reuters in an interview after talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels.

"EU accession is about the future of Iceland, its long-term interests and its position in Europe ... Again, there is no link between Icesave and our EU accession process and it would be very illogical to make such a link," she said.

Iceland, a country of 320,000 people in the far north of Europe, is a member of the European Economic Area and has signed other agreements with the EU, meaning its bid to become a member can move more rapidly than other candidates.

Sigurdardottir said she did not think it would take longer than two years to complete talks once they had started. EU leaders could agree a timeframe for the entry talks at a summit in March, if the Commission recommends such a move this month.

"Given our already close integration with the EU ... and based on the accession talks of our Nordic friends in the early 1990s, Iceland's accession talks could possibly be completed in 12-24 months after they start," Sigurdardottir said.

Britain and the Netherlands have in the past expressed reservations about Iceland moving ahead with entry discussions before it resolves the Icesave issue, in which more than $5 billion of foreign deposits were lost when the bank collapsed.

Iceland's banking system, currency and economy all folded under the impact of the global credit crisis in late 2008.

Iceland had committed to repaying those who deposited money with Icesave, but went back on that decision at the start of this year as Icelanders voiced strong opposition.

Sigurdardottir said discussions were going on regularly with British and Dutch authorities to try to resolve the Icesave dispute, and said she was hopeful for a resolution.

"It is not in the interest of the EU, the UK, the Netherlands or Iceland to complicate our accession process ... as it would only undermine our long-term strategy towards economic stability and rebuilding our economy," she said.

"The Icesave issue has been an exceedingly difficult issue for my government and our population at large," she said.

"It is hard for our taxpayers to stomach that they are expected to cover part of the losses incurred by irresponsible private bankers." But she added:

"My government has repeatedly stated its intention to live up to its international obligations, and the Icelandic parliament has three times stated its intention to repay the UK and the Netherlands the minimum deposit guarantee paid out to Icesave retail depositors, in accordance with EU law."

(Writing by Luke Baker; Editing by Michael Roddy)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Election 2014

Election 2014

Kashmiris wary as Modi challenges for power.  Full Article 

Facebook's Performance

Facebook's Performance

Facebook Q1 revenue grows 72 percent on rising mobile ads.  Full Article 

Earnings Season

Earnings Season

Bharti Infratel Q4 net profit jumps 64 percent.  Full Article 

Monsoon Forecast

Monsoon Forecast

South Asia monsoon seen below-average to average in 2014 - WMO.  Full Article 

Solar Dispute

Solar Dispute

Green groups urge U.S. to drop solar trade case against India.  Full Article 

Oil Imports

Oil Imports

India to make May-July oil payments to Iran - sources.  Full Article 

Rice Exports

Rice Exports

India may cede top rice exporter spot under Southeast Asian price onslaught.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage